The Chronicles of Enoch is going to be a true Epic. It will have a cast of at least fifty (if not more) and will cover a period of approximately eight thousand years. That, in itself, is quite the challenging proposition. When you add a conspiracy or several, complex plots involving the military, the police forces, several religions, experimental science, and secret government projects….well, we are not even sure if there is a Kansas to be in any more, although we are sort of familiar with Kansas as a concept…
Let me give you a list of some of the topics we have covered so far;
The Hebrew Talmud
Sumerian tablets and carvings
Doggerland and other antedeluvian lands
Every conspiracy theory on Atlantis and lost continents
Fluid dynamics, thermal dynamics, and high pressure fluid dynamics inversions
Astronomy, especially regarding the Moon and Mars
Terraforming and how it could happen
Micro-electronics and experimental electronic theory
Every religion which has ever existed
The titular Books of Enoch and other Apocrypha
Jewish exorcism rites
Aviation history, space flight, experimental space technology, and theoretical physics
The Atlanta and Georgia State Police Force and SWAT Division
Child psychology and criminal psychology
ASD and Aspergers syndrome
Eurasian and North American mythology
Ballistics, sniper theory and practises, bullet manufacture
Chemistry and materials science
Esoteric lore from several sources
Misha of Jewish scripture and questionable sources
Almost every conspiracy theory I could find (except flat Earth because even the ancients weren’t stupid)
I actually stopped because I don’t want to overwhelm you. There is a lot more and I am only on the first book of a five-volume series.
On Appearing the Expert
If there is one person who does this well, it was Michael Crichton, he truly did an amazing job of appearing to be an overnight expert on his subject matter. Whether it was genetics and dinosaurs, aviation and accident investigation, law enforcement, or ancient arabian literature and viking migration and culture, Michael’s books communicated a confident knowledge on the subject. One could read his books and not only enjoy the story but actually learn something. That is a rare talent and he remains sorely missed.
He was a remarkably intelligent man but he did not become an actual expert on every topic he wrote so convincingly about, he researched and made use of actual experts instead, which proves just how intelligent he was.
I think it is important, when setting your writing in real places, referencing real groups of people, places, and lore, it is important to give a sense of authenticity, a flavour of truth to your work. This, I feel, is vital in drawing your reader into to your story. There is that famous saying about ‘the best lies/legends contain a grain of truth’ and your story needs, I feel, to contain at least enough grains to quarter fill a small salf shaker or enough rice to set a fried egg on.
What about science fiction, you may ask? Good question.
I refer you to the Illium/Olympus series by Dan Simmons. He had a curious idea; combine the Trojan War with the science fiction of a terraformed Mars, involve actual Greek gods who were in fact posthuman superbeings, genetically enhanced humans, killer robots, advanced benevolent robots, Shakespearean monsters, and Lovecraftian gods. He added real theoretical science as well as decent historical research into the books and made them rather interesting indeed, while still keeping the fantasy and sci-fi elements alive.
My point is, research is king (or queen, or elected official) of writing; you need to add elements of reality into your unreality in order to draw people in. Even if they are not experts in the field, it is going to draw them in if done well.
Doing It Well..
In today’s world, research is no longer as challenging as it once was. I remember the good old days of researching my now-abandoned first novel in my teens. You had to go to a library and first find the section of the library your book might be in, then you had to find one which suited your need, take it back because it was no good, come back overloaded with others, then spend hours leafing through them for the information you wanted before getting distracted by something interesting you found along the way. Do not get me started on microfiche archives either!
Today, you have Google. With the few strokes of the keys, you have access to everything, even Wikipedia…
There are a few problems with that. The old addage of “if it wasn’t true they wouldn’t let them put it on there” is not, necessarily, true. For some sites yet but Wikipedia is publically editable. of course, they curate it now, but we have seem a few worrying and a number of hilarious results of such editing. They catch it eventually, I should know, my backlinks lasted a week…
So; you have to be careful in what information you use, myou need trusted sources such as academic ones or verifiable sources of information when it comes to scientific or academic stuff, as well as historical events. Accuracy is key because trust me, you will encounter that one person who will pull you up on a fact and you can be sure that they will leave a review about it.
Spend the time, is my advice, check your facts and, check them again. You’ll be amazed by the results. I know it’s hard but, until we are famous, we can’t court experts to interview or hire researchers to do it for us. I keep telling you that this job is no even remotely easy, do I not…
Of The Dumping of Information
Don’t do it. That’s the best advice I can give for you to follow. Dumping information is never good and dropping a pile of facts and figures on the reader’s lap is going to make them feel like they are reading a text book. I know you spent a long time researching it, built some impressive knowledge and thorough notes on the subject and, if you follow my upcoming advice, may use a tiny fraction of it directly but it will matter when you retain rather than lose readers.
Use natural-sounding dialogue. Think Star Trek without the eleven syllable words and pseudo-science speak. Two colleagues just chatting about things such colleagues would naturally discuss under the circumtances. Look it how it sounds, how it flows and if it feels natural. Practise it with a friend and see how it falls off the tongue.
Short bits of internal dialogue. Again, watch the flow, fragment it with thoughts, feelings, or actions to break up what we call a WOT (wall of text). Think how you think and, if it’s nothing close to that, then change it. You might be surprised to discover that most people don’t think in paragraphs, some do but most think in short sentences. A whole page of thoughts is a definite no-no.
Exposition in easy to digest pieces. Ideally mix with the above, by way of short and concise explanation. Think of PBS or BB2 (or your local equivalent channel) science programs. They keep their facts short and to the point and intersperse music and action pieces. I recommend you do the same. Attention spans these days really are not what they used to be. I had to figure out a similar balance when dealing with Dr. Webb’s pieces in the ACARI facility in New Mexico and Asmodeus’ musings on the ICARUS program in Darkness Within as well as Kalshodar phsysiology in the Hegemony drafts.
It is all about practise, I’m afraid. It doesn’t come completely naturally and we have all suffered the consequences. Use the comparison to science and nature programs, it really does work if you visualise David Attenborough, Neil Degrasse Tyson, or Morgan Freeman speaking out your chunks of dialogue among the whistful nature shots and fancy special effects. If it sounds boring in Mr. Freeman’s voice, then you must fix it because next to nothing sounds boring with that voice; he could (British reference) read the Saturday football (not soccer) results and you’d actually enjoy it (American readers, enjoy the video below, I give you two minutes before you scream and run out of the room….)
So, Why Research so Much?
I’ve used this one before and I use it again.
WETA Workshop, the special effects company behind such blockbusters as the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Bladerunner 2049, and District 9 are on record saying that there is a massive chunk of the props, details, and details they created in those movies that 90% of viewers will not even notice, consciously at least. Subconsciously though, it helps draw them into a fully realised world and immerse themselves in it because every item on every elf is a little different, because no orc’s armour is the same, or because Deckard sees adverts in the right kind of Japanese or Chinese everywhere.
It’s about the atmosphere it creates, how the nuggests you drop show that you know a lot more than that but chose, chose mark you, to keep them for another time. I work in Customer Service in a rather manic industry (online gambling) and have learned tone of voice and implied confidence go an aweful long way in inspiring confidence in the person on the other end of the phone. I am not a sports fan, I hate horses, and am blaise about football but I can make it sound like I know what I’m talking about because I’ve researched and trained myself to recognise key phrases in conversation. My customers think I’m just like them (I don’t gamble) and therefore trust my judgement and what I tell tell them. Remember popular business maxim?
“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”
To continue from my previous point, people will trust somebody who sounds like they know what they’re talking about before they will trust someone who sounds uncertain. You could be giving them completely accurate information but it you do not sound confident, they’ll listen to the tone not the words. They ask for a manager and you put them on, the manager says exactly what you did but because they said it confidently and identified as a manager, the customer accepts it, humans eh?
If you mention a few juicy facts, handle their delivery well, make your characters sound natural as they speak, think, or experience them, then your reader feels confident that you know your setting and your job. They enter your world willingly and relax into the story. Anything that jars against the expectations you gave them will shatter their confidence and ruin their experience.
If you research well, have digested it, and somewhat understood it, this will be obvious in your writing because you will drop the right fact or comment right where it belongs. I had a scientist character of mine deliver a brief keynote speech on a certain topic to see how it flowed. It didn’t appear in any of the books and it won’t. The speech is mentioned in passing here and there, and a brief excerpt or two show up but the entire 20-minute speech itself (together with a Q&A session at the end) is buried in the texture of the story.
If you do not know it, learn. If you find the facts, look again. if your facts clash, keep looking. You are building a world so contrary opinions are going to exist however, make your facts solid before you use them.
Do not infodump or include overy-lengthy expositions that stop the story dead and advance it not at all. Think of Morgan Freeman narrating and do not, just do not make Morgan say something boring. He fought hard for that reputation, try not to ruin it for him.
Use what you have learned, digest it, and (using a popular revision techmnique) rewrite it in your own words to show that you understood it. Do not paste directly from your source or repeat verbatim unless what you’re adding is an actual quote or there is a very valid reason to do so.
Use what you have learned and your ability to paraphrase it to sound confident and reassure your customer that not only have they chosen well and selected an author who did their research but one who knows their trade and can be trusted to deliver. Don’t be lazy, we readers can spot it in an instant.
Remember when we were readers before we were authors. Remember what you love and hate in books you have read and try not to repeat any of the things you, yourself, hate. Respect the reader enough to ensure that they will not part with their cash for anything less than your very best work.
Respect them and they will see it and they, in turn, will respect you.
I found myself recently asking this very question and I was actually a shade concerned when I did. Now, I had known I was on a time-limit to get the PRELUDES of Enoch out and ‘live’ as it were. I’d known I had to get them uploaded before the events I predicted (not by magical powers, incidentally, by observation, deduction and experience) came to pass, before I could be accused of simply plagarising reality rather than creating it as I’m supposed to.
UPDATE; I was going to write a scene where Lucifer, working with Penumael, formulates a plan to discredit his puppet, Krampus (mimicking the President), using the outbreak of a disease. He was going to step in as the hero, exposing the intentional mismanagement and inadequacies of the former and take over in a suitably muscular and efficient fashion. Then I decided that this is probably what is going to actually going to happen before I reach that part of the book…also, considering recent events, it would be in rather bad taste…
But a writer cannot copy stuff that’s already happened, right?
I’d like you to stop for a moment and roll that question around in your head a few times; savour it, consider it and taste it well. It’s a stupid question isn’t it? Not a completely, throw someone out of the window stupid but, perhaps, more of a badly worded one. Plagarism. It is a word we have all dreaded since we started writing, back at school. It means we didn’t do the work or, at least, people think that. It means we stole what someone else created and took a shortcut. It means not only did we do that but we got caught and, as anyone who watches the news these days knows, getting caught is the really important part. If they don’t catch you, then it never happened!
Well, perhaps that is true….
A small nugget of interesting here. The Preludes of Enoch have been called, by some, a little prophetic.
Well fill me with radon, connect me to a battery and call me a lightbulb!
Can it be true? Well it certainly wasn’t intentional as such. I may have chosen to satirise, lambast and make light of a certain man who lives, shall we say, in a house of a shade produced by the reflection of almost all colors. That big one in America they make such a big deal about living in for 4-8 year periods! I may have objected to several aspects of him and thought to humourously present them in the PRELUDES. I may also have used certain events related to said fine gentlemen and statesman to illustrate key points Asmodeus was making and provided both examples and contrasts for he and Julian to talk about.
Shock. Horror. Fire. Fear. Foes. Awake. I just ‘borrowed’ from somewhere else right there. Anyone have an idea where?
Ten bonus points to the first correct guess. No I am NOT a prophet of any kind who sees the future. I may look toward the future an awful lot but I tend to not go further than either the coming Friday or my next payday (the one where I get money, not that lovely peanut thing I praise America for inventing). I have written some speculative fiction and wanted to make sure He-Who-Is-Named-After-British-Slang-for-a-fart didn’t self-destruct before I got the stories on the internet! Now of course I may gain some enemies from this course of action but who ever said it was a writer’s job to be popular with the establishment? I may even gain some nice letters on White House stationary. I may well do.
If you ask me, I might even admit to loving the idea of that prospect… How can I write a series of books which have, as one of their background themes, the actual end of everything without at least referencing the real world events which might well bring about such an apocalypse about before I am actually able to get the darn series finished?
The truth is stranger than fiction, they say and I often feel like I’m playing catch up with the real world! I’m not actually sure what I’d do in those circumstances. Probably look for a chisel and nice quiet cave to carve in…isn’t that something a prophet or at least a hermit would do? They ask.
Now, wouldn’t a prophet actually deny being a prophet just in case his prophecies go wonky and people blame him for that? Look at that dead French bloke! Someone claiming to be a prophet these days would be considered nuttier than a squirrel banquet.
Soooo, a real prophet would pretend not to be one in order to throw people off and have them not call him or her a nutter, right? So he said….ohhhh! Winky, winky, eh? EH?
Now, let’s move towards shall we say, the meat (sorry non-carnivores) of the proposal. This is one I see a lot of questions about and also insecurities from many in reference to. People ask me what they should write about for one. They ask me ‘I saw a story which was very similar to mine but I didn’t copy them’, they ask about fan-fic, about conforming to popular genres and tropes. “How to be original, how to be original, how to be original!” Goes the cry. “When it appears to have been done before?”. Easy answer to that one. Do it anyway.
There are truly no original ideas left, none. There may well be several unique interpretations, combinations and representations though. Every storyline is recycled. Every event, trope or situation already used. Some genres thrive on such predictable repetition, others really don’t. If you put your heart, your soul and, more importantly, your honest commitment into it, you’ll create something unique.
How many times has the mousy, overlooked and badly-treated young person shockingly turned out to be the only being capable of supposedly changing the world for the better and saving whatever species that individual belongs to from a variety of terrible things. Four or five allies will dramatically die along the way and many moments of self-discovery will take place but the Evil One will be destroyed and peace/prosperity/a New Order will result. The Chosen One will either fade into the shadows modestly or have an important role in the new government.
Sometimes there is even a twist when said Chosen One realises that the Just Change they fought for isn’t and the New Boss they trusted is just like the Old Boss; so they unexpectedly rebel against the New Boss in a dramatic finale never meant to be resolved.
Don’t write the sequel, please, let it hang!
Take a moment to make a list of just how many books, book series and movies I have just described the basic storylines of. Take ten, go for a snack, smoke, whatever you fancy but make sure you can write while you’re doing it ok? Now go over your list and count the entries. Multiply it by your birth year, add the number of times you were scared by the neighbour’s dog as a child (be honest) and divide the result by the sum of your list minus your birthday. I know what your answer is going to be, I know it exactly.
More of my secret hidden prophet abilities coming into play… Your answer was an awful lot, quite a few or lots. Maybe even loads and loads if you’re ambitious or old. I am truly amazing, right? Thank you, thank you, I know! Thank you.
Joking aside, almost every popular fantasy, YA, Sci-Fi and possibly romance book ever written, right? All those popular movies that start with a weak, ugly, overlooked or maltreated fellow/fellowess who develops godlike powers and…all that other stuff happens.
Most food is made of the same basic ingredients but the number of dishes which can be made from it are truly many! Same with writing. Look at the one with that young bespecktacled fellow who finds out he can do magic and even go to school for it and compare it to the young blonde fellow who harvested dew on a desert planet with two suns. One fights a snake faced fellow with an insecurity complex and the other an asthmatic bloke in a robot suit. Both win (oh crap! Spoiler alert, sorry!) and make their respective lands better places for almost everyone who lives there.
Except most of the ones who fought with or agreed with the bad guy…but we don’t talk about them really, do we? The point is this; people watched the movies, bought the books, became nerds for the story and mythology and so on. Nobody crossed their arms and harumphed about how like that other movie they’d seen the other occasion it was. Well, maybe there was one. There’s always one isn’t there? Are you ready? Here he is;
You can just feel that aura of the easily impressed one, can’t you? That is, indeed, the face of a man well-pleased with his entertainment choices! Or maybe not.
How would you guys describe his expression? He’s probably upset because that thing he automatically hates because young people like it made more money than he can even imagine how to fantasise about while being sure to be accurately representing it in the correct denominations and the right amounts thereof.
We just broke the poor fellow’s brain! He’ll be alright, he’s just gone for a quick lie down, after which he’ll find his box of blue biros, yellow legal pad and the contents of his wallet; currently some old receipts, an expired voucher or two and exactly $17 and 45 cents in mixed currency. Fifty bonus points for telling me what this fellow, let’s call him Earl, has in his wallet. What is the most likely or best combination of bills and coins for a man of Earl’s age and demeanour? What else is hiding in there that he forgot about? See what we’ve just done? We made Earl a person. We invented a character!
He is a stereotype but people like those, especially if you make them funny enough. Think about all the angry old man characters you have read about and seen in movies for a few minutes…they all turned out to be big softies in the end don’t they? Not Earl; Earl is an asshole and will never change.
Only kidding, Earl is decent enough really. Your story might have been done before, in it’s essence. It may have been done more times that Earl has itemised the contents of his wallet since he retired, twelve years ago.
More times than he has saluted the flag in his eighty-five years of life. More times even than he has complained about his left leg in winter. He nearly lost it to shrapnel and actually counts his blessings often. Same as he counts his shoes when he puts them on as well as the fact that he still possesses a foot to place inside each.
Motivations and backstory right there, see? If you wish to develop this budding Earl, I gift him to you. Treat him nicely and please don’t kill him off thoughtlessly, he served and was wounded for his country with honour.
He’s actually not a bad old sort when you get to know him. He loves pistachio nuts and if you bring him some of those or, better yet ice-cream in that flavour, he will regail you with many a stirring tale of his own! Brew him coffee with a pinch of salt in it and he will bless you as a brother. OK, let’s allow Earl his rest for now, we could pass all day learning about him.
Best to leave him with his calculations and his list. He’s going to spend a good few hours on this one! Quite the perfectionist, this fellow. Funny how that happens, right? We don’t so much invent as discover some characters. I have been surprised at least once by how some of them turned out!
Someone wrote a story very like yours before. A lot of someones in fact. Did they have your characters, your setting, your skills and your humour though? Take Earl, I described him one way, you might detail other traits he has that I missed. He’ll still be the same man, only described from different points of view. Just like that man whose skin-tone is often compared to both a fruit and a colour at the same time. Some see him as a hero and great man, the unifier of their land and saviour of their way of life. To sensible and intelligent people, though, he is an idiot.
Ok, joking again, I can’t help it! Every writer tells their own story, I can’t get upset because it’s not the same as mine. In fact, in retrospect, I should be grateful that it is not, right? See how it works now? That’s right, you already knew, you just hadn’t realised it yet.
Off you go, I look forward to seeing you on the shelves. Well, your book at least. If I see you on some shelves I might consider you a little strange, perhaps. Go and write it, I challenge you. Just be nice and respectful to Earl, OK?
I have spent a significant portion of my life with several of my imaginary friends and, not only have I done this but I have documented it. Not only have I documented it but I am trying to present it in appealing fashion so that people will pay me for the pleasure of gawking at my insanity. I enjoy this activity and call myself writer, author, among other things.
“What do you do in your spare time?” People ask me
“I invent people and have conversations with them in my head and then I write it down” they usually start making excuses and backing away right about this time. This may be a not altogether conventional description of a writer’s trade but it is not inaccurate really.Think about it. At this moment in time I have…around 9 people in my head about whom I think regularly, whom I place in situations and generate dialogue for, with whom I, in fact, have conversations effectively. A lot of the time we keep these conversations between ourselves and they never make it to the page; either because I forget about them, am distracted or, when I sit down at my keyboard with the complete intention of writing down that cracker of a dialogue from earlier down something strange happens…I start to write and it turns into something completely and utterly different. My neat little scene, my snappy chatty, my situationette turn into something completely different! I sit down wanting to write how x met z and talked about y but then w comes in and murders x and falls in love with z and y did this every happen????!!
I think Poe put it best “I am a writer therefore I am not sane.”
Therefore I ask you this question and, honest answers only please, on a stamped and self addressed postcard. Do we create our characters or were they always there, inside our heads? Do we create stories or are we the medium by which the story writes itself? Are we really crazy or are scientists just jealous b*st*ards because they don’t do anything original?
“At the heart of every legend there is a grain of truth”
– Michael Scott
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, the gifted hero of the tale used his military skills, natural leadership, and participated in the legends seeded by the order of manipulators to whom his mother belonged. He won and ousted the current Emperor of the Galaxy, marrying his daughter and ending all conflict…or so he thought. We later discover that the religiously inclined people he had helped achieve freedom decided to found a church upon his deeds, make him the living Messiah and launch a jihad throughout the galaxy in his name. In dispair, he walks out into the desert, apparently never to return.
Paul Atreides was fighting for revenge and recruited the Freman to his cause by listening to his mother’s advice to play along with the legend. As it happens, he exceeds the expectation but that is anothe matter. What is important is that the truth is soon overshadowed by the Legend and, once those directly involved in real events are gone, nobody is left to say “that did not happen” so people are free to believe the more exciting version.
This is a manifestation of the phenomena we like to call “Storyteller Syndrome” or, in simple terms, storyteller’s exaggerating or, more accurately outright lying in order to draw their audience in better.
Let’s compare the following two versions as an example;
A large and violent man, while engaging in his normal activities of reaving and raiding, kidnaps a woman who was held prisoner by his latest ‘clients’. I turns out that she is the princess or somewhere or other and had, in fact been kidnapped by a rival of the king’s. The king is an old man and the princess his only heir so marrying her would grant her father’s rival the kingdom. Our hero realised that she is going to be worth a great deal of money so does not do anything that could reduce the reward as he normally would under such circumstances. Of course, our villian learns of this and makes numerous attempts to recapture his bride and murder our hero but, being a man of action and quite well versed in the art of murder, our hero prevails every time. Arriving at the king’s castle, our hero confronts the villain, who snuck in and tried to murder the king, but is stopped by the hero because that’d mean he could kiss his money goodbye. The king, though grateful, is quite old and rather crazy. The kindgom is also rather poor so he marries his daughter off to our hero and has the villain executed; killing two birds with one stone. Having heard that the king’s advisors are planning to do away with him after the wedding, our hero murders the king, seizes the throne and traumatises the princess. He goes on to lead a brutal campaign against the holdings of the rival. The princess dies less than a year later of a broken heart during childbirth.
Son of the Gods of the mountains, a noble barbarian exile is sent by his father, the God Muklebuckle to save the princess from a terrible wizard who infiltrated the kingdom and enchanted Lord Flafflefarst of Overhereia. The noble hero defeats a band of evil monsters guarding the princess and rescues her, carrying her off into the forest for her safety. The wizard hears of this and sends beasts, monsters, and demons after the hero but he defeats them all, with a little bit of help from the gods, of course. During the journey, the princess falls in love with the hero’s noble spirit and rather rugged good looks. Upon arriving at the castle, the hero engages in terrible battle with the wizard who is actually O’Deer’Jhez’Uz the dragon demon whom he barely defeats and almost dies, but love saves him at the last minute as the princess swears to marry him if he lives. Her father, unfortunately, perishes in the melee. Our hero marries the princess and, in honour of his departed father, leads the army to cleanse the land of Overheria and Rhihttheretu of demons and magicians. Lots of people die but the end of the world is avoided and the gods are happy…probably…
Of course, history does either tend to be written by the victors or to flatter them and ensure the writer retains the ability to continue writing…and breathing, of course.
History and Myth
We are pretty much certain these days that a great many of the old stories are not accurate representations of events. We are less credulous as a society than people once were, blame it on knowledge. Back when many of the older stories were written, great swathes of the world were unexplored, unknown, and undocumented. Monsters could live there because nobody could say for sure that they did not.
People had few other forms of entertainment so liked to tell and be told stories on dark winter nights. Their lives were also quite short and brutal in earlier times; ordinary people had rather unfulfilling lives or constant work and few prospects. Hearing tales of a common man going on adventures and eventually becoming king was bound to go down well, give them something to dream about.
That’s the purpose of stories, really, isn’t it? To give people something to believe in outside of the humdrum of normal existence. That the good people will triumph over the evil, that common people can do uncommon things, that there is a sense of justice to the world. Each era has it’s fashions in stories; in medieval times, the common man getting one over on the aristocracy or the church was popular. In today’s time, the unregarded individual, who is often persecuted for being different is found to be different because of a previously undiscovered heritage which makes them uniquely suited to save the world and gain romantic affirmation.
Stories are a way of escaping our everyday lives; they always have been and they always will be; they are about finding sense and meaning in a world where such things are in short supply. We like to believe that these things can happen because if they can’t, then what’s the point?
The Persistence of Belief
Heroes of the Ancient Greek, Roman and similar eras were the action movie stars of their day. The gods were both the stars and vilains, depending on who the hero was. It was like a great series where you never know what’s going to happen next, who’ll form an alliance with whom, who’d get jealous of which other god, who’d father or mother a demi-god to commit heroic or villainous acts next. It was like that rather popular fictional series involving dragons everyone liked.
The grand an heroic heroes of the scrolls were the embodiments of justice, fairness, and nobility that everyone could aspire to and admire. The villains were everything the people disliked at the time or those on charge disapproved of. Often subtle stabs at those in power found their way into them. They had to be subtle in those days because the reaction from an those in charge rarely would be. Critics? Oh dear, I’d rather get figuratively stabbed in the heart than actually…
These days we look for more depth because ideals and paragons are no longer our thing. We still like the justice and reason behind everything parts. Our world, in spite of the vast increase in knowledge and education, still hasn’t found where Truth and Justice live. Governments are still filled with egotistical liars, the poor still suffer more than they should, life is much unfairer than it needs to be, the status quo see-saw tends to be much heavier at one end than it is on the other.
It is no coincidence that the majority of villains we see suffering a variety of dramatic deaths in movies are mega-rich people of highly questionable morals and an enjoyment for taking over the world by killing all the poor folks. The hero is usually a working – middleclass nobody who gets an unexpected chance to restore the balance and take out the rich guy that makes their life unfair and miserable.
Yet, as much as our fiction appears to be making the rich pay for their crimes and suchlike, we desperately want to join them also. Billionaires coming down from their high eeries to notice a much-ignored nobody and make them rich too is quite a common theme also. It seems like quite a lot of people are not happy with their position is society and are seeking all kinds of ways to get out.
The truth is not as important as the dream. Nobody feeling in need of a cheering up picks up a history book or looks for a documentary on famous dynasties, well some people might but fewer in number than those that won’t.
We all like to believe that the world can be fair, that a reward awaits those who live well and are good, that there are heroes out there somewhere, opposing the evil we see in everything. We like to think that people will get what they deserve, especially if it isn’t good. We like to believe that fairytale love exisits and will come to sweep us off of our feet. We like to believe we could be attractive, powerful, in control, and decisive.
We read about it because we can escape for a while from reality and dip our toes into the fantastical and truly believe that if it can happen to them, then maybe it can happen to us one day too.
“You can write. Good story well told. No idea where you go with it or if you really want to go down this road, it’s a long hard road being a writer….”
So said Matt, a very good friends of mine, taking time out of his very busy schedule as author, director, screenwriter and generally very interesting family man to review my short story Embodied.
Writing involves losing oneself in other places and times, other people’s lives, inside of the words themselves. We lose ourselves. The great philosopher M. Mathers made mention of this in his deep tract of the same name and, despite what some may think of Eminem’s value as a literary source, he has a point. Writing fiction is where we see this most, I believe. We invent lives, worlds and events and bury ourselves in them, to become them and inhabit them so we can write about them. Another friend of mine spoke about a “cult of multiple personality” in describing a group of fiction writers and he too, is right don’t you think? I mean we, in any given novel, inhabit the heads of 4 or 5 people we invented with the hopes of making them real and believable to other people. We become them, we live as them, we make them real. The late and great Sir Terry Pratchett perhaps put it best. “The better a writer is, the crazier they are..”. So we are here, every last one of us hoping, praying, putting in late nights and long sessions to be utterly, utterly insane because no-one does all that sacrifice and work to be mediorce now do they? We want to be the best there the craziest!
So we walk this long and lonely road collectively alone. Walking inside of our own heads we follow the pack, we set off down another track, we turn round and come back, we set off on our own path and truly go alone? We write, we invent, we create, we become!
Nothing is harder are more difficult than pouring your heart and soul, your everything into a novel, a story, a collection, a blog or any such thing for months, even years and then when the DAY comes, when you see the “published” come on and the excitement threatens to explode to wait….to wait…and then…well….dum de dum….well….nothing. one sale. Diddly squat, zippo, nada. Bummer! It is beyond aweful. You placed a gosh darned piece of your SOUL out there and bared it to the world and not even a solitary handclap?? Well damn. So now what?
I told Matt, in response to his questions at the beginning of this article the following, which i quote;
“you know this is in the blood and being a writer isn’t a concious decision…being brave enough to share it and strong enough to take the criticism; rough enough to dust off and improve…those’re the choices. For me writing is a pleasure, a release, an outlet….I even dare say stuff writes itself! That shorty started very differently and kind of morphed as i wrote it; make sense? You know i don’t know; I write because it is ME….there are so many times when I’m not sure I am writing about my characters or whether they are writing themelves and i am simply observing…the words, often it’s as if the words are in charge and I’m just the one giving them shape..”
So here’s my advice. Your write and self publish, like so many of us do, and it bombs. Find out why…be brave and publish bits of it on groups and blogs, have friends and family read it and listen to what they have to say! Alexandria wasn’t built in a day, the most perfect of paintings were done over the top of older paintings, the best of steel is made by failing over and over and over again! Brush it off, stand up, wipe your hands and carry on!!
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert Kennedy
As I mentioned in my previous article, passing on through it, humans don’t like to take blame. If something happened; either close by or far away, we let it happen one way or another. In fairness, before you all attack me, there are some things far away we can not really do anything about due to distance or circumstance but, in today’s Age of Information of everything is shareable, tweetable and so forth, as Obama started, we can continue in saying “Yes! We can!”.
Let us step backwards one moment though and come back from saving the world to beginning where what makes such a thing possible is begun. Let’s begin with this thought;
“Everything which ever happened to you is your fault”
Think about that for a moment, digest it, mull it over. Now argue with me! That’s right, you do not have control over what other people choose to do, how they are, the things they do. You are right but you can control how you react to those circumstances. I know ths is going to be a tough article because it is one which is most likely to upset a lot of people for a number of simple reasons. There are some things which we genuinely feel we cannot control but ask yourself to consider these scenarios first;
A friend of mine was brutally and horribly raped. I cannot even come close to imagining what that is like. Nothing I have lived can give me true understanding of what she went through. This same woman founded a local charity for helping other victims of rape move past the guilt, the suffering, the hate and rebuild their lives.
Another woman I know lost her husband of 40 years to cancer, she now fights for cancer research to be better funded and recognised.
A man who lost both of his legs climbs Mount Everest.
Alright; these are extremes but it does not change one simple fact; it is me who decides how I shape my future and how I look at myself. Look at this, I was in a long series of terrible, bad and downright awful relationships, ending with the one I left the US because of. She was controlling, abusive, nasty, hateful and all that stuff; mentally and physically abusive. I let her be. Here’s the thing, I read a while ago letters and emails and cards I had written to her, missives to myself as part of my therapy and my first thought was this “what a spineless little worm!” but this obvious invertibrate was me! I allowed her to control me and I allowed her to get away with all that I did. I did then and always do decide what happens to me and what I deserved. The day I decided that I deserved better was the day that I left No-one could make that decision for me but me.
So why, Alan the image from Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Museum clearly displaying the struggle for racial equality? Is this an article about personal struggle or a large struggle? Are they that different really? I experiecne what I allow, we experience what we allow. Surely you cannot say black people are responsibile for what white people did to them? In part yes they are. Why? Fear. Everyone fears to be the frst to stand up and go against the flow, the staus quo, the very tide itself. Ms. Rosa Parkes refused to move ona bus and they beat her. MLK refused to accept the status quo and they killed him. Various black and white people refused to accept division in the world and were harmed, beaten,. even killed for their refusal. Their resistance changed the world and, like that single stone they started the avalanche! By refusing to be beaten they gave courage to everyone else and the movement was begun! So, MLK, Rosa Parkes, Malcolm X and others decided to NOT let things just happen to them and look what they began! After they started others followed. Jim Crowe was destroyed, a black man became president, the N word is no longer acceptable. Why did no-one rise up before? They were surely afraid, they would be singled out and they and their family punished and even killed. It remained that way until along came someone for whom ideals, justice, RIGHT were more important than life itself. Such people are indeed rare and, while I say this I ask myself; would I be one to stand up in the face of tyranny knowing my life is forfeit no matter what I do? Knowing my wife and kids could be harmed because of what I say or do? I truly do not know there but I hope so.
But it boils down to this and I will ask you simply; what are you prepared to allow yourself to endure? What do you deserve to suffer? Can you end your suffering or make it matter?
Today’s society of share everything on Facebook or tweet it, compose a sad video on YouTube etc is all geared to denying responsibility for our circumstances;
My life sucks and and it awful, please pity me! What are YOU doing to make it better? WHAT is wrong with your life? WHY is it like that?
People don’t understand me and treat me awfully. HAVE you tried explaining yourself differently or better? have you tried asking people WHAT they don’t understand?
Everyone criticises me and is cruel. MAYBE criticism is good and your skin needs some thickening? WHAT are they criticising you for? HOW are they criticising you? WHAT are you doing about it?
You see maybe I’m weird, maybe I’m odd but I came out of that awful relationship I mentioned and, like I said she put me through the mill and I went through a significant degree of living Hell. When I got clear adn my family were talking to me they may well have noticed something strange; a reticence, an unwillingness to talk about it. Not due to PTSD, bad memories, denial or any of that. I was angry. I was incandescently enraged; not with her; she had behaved as she thought right but with me, myself, for allowing it to happen! I did not want sympathy, I did not want comfort, I did not want understanding. I caused that situation, I let it happen, I did not stop it earlier than I did.I had to make sure it would never happen again! It was me who drive my family sick with worry. Yes she did stuff to me but I allowed her to and I let me do it AFTER she had already shown me what she was; her nature. See look at this, if a dog bites me, I cannot truly be angry at the dog, it is his nature to bite when afraid. If I keep going to where he’s hiding knowing he’ll bite me, then I am to blame and, frankly quite stupid! You laugh but we have all been guilty. That job, those relationships, that family, those friends, that lifestyle, We’ve all been there, we’ve all done it. Until it became enough, right?
What made Rosa Parkes decide not to move back on the bus that day? What made Dr. King start preaching as he did? What made Ghandi refuse to back down? Why did Jesus start preaching, John the Baptist? We may never truly know why but we do know one thing for sure; they did. We know they did and we also know this; we can too, even if our Big Moment is smaller, more personal, it doesn’t change the most important part of what saying “this shall continue no more” involves. The bravery; the sheer undeniable unshakeable faith in doing what is Right! Not everyone is brave enough and to teach and every last one of you who won your struggle; whether you changed the world or your job; I here today salute you! I salute you all! Here is the secret I can now tell you;
“It doesn’t matter what others think, it matters what you think, period. Your struggle is yours alone, your victory, huge! Fight on and be proud you fought, but fight!”
Let’s be honest, everyone can post on Facebook and receive sympathy but very few can fight like lions to change their world and maybe other people’s. Very few, remember that.
“When they discover the centre of the universe, a lot of people will be very disappointed that they are not in it”
Well here’s a polemic one but one I think is important. I have actually been thinking of this one for a while but two factors brought out in the urge to write about it today;
Having recently re-read the pretty darn decent “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson (if you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so).
Watching mediocre writers get all hissy whenever someone tells them their work is not perfect.
So, Alan, is this a bad mood you are in today? No Sir/Ma’am/Other it is not, simply a realistic assessment of what I see around me but thank you for asking.
We live a world where everything comes easily; news, information, entertainment, fantasy, desire, products, movies, love, even groceries; they all come right to our device in the blink of an eye and the click of a mouse. Everything is easy and comes when we want it to, pretty much. I want a movie to watch? I go to website Z and stream it, watch it, my need is satisfied, one bunny is now happy! Is it a good thing, though, that everything is easy? Well…
I watch my Facebook feed, my Instagram feed (if it’s actually also called that, I don’t know) and I see it all the time..
Oh! My x, y and z is doing this and I feel so, like oh about it, please pity me!
Life is awful and we all need to commit suicide and write sad poems about it so people will like our pages and make us cool.
My random musings about the nature of how important my suffering is are going to be the Unholy Grail of vampiric, suicidal,S&M, magical creatures with gender uncertainty issues!
The list goes on and on. There is a ready and immediate place for people to express themselves immediately and, to a degree, anonymously, and express themselves they do. The lonely and rejected can (and this is where it starts to get really ironic) meet lots of other lonely and rejected people so they can share their feelings of loneliness and rejection together. It’s becoming dangerous though, look at that whole “Blue Whale” game and “13 Reasons Whu-Ay-Uh-Aaaaay Did they make it??”.Ooooh let’s commit suicide and self harm the enthusiastic teenagers cry! What the sweet and holy f is going on??
Entitlement, that’s what. The world owes me something. I am important. My feelings are important. You must listen to me. You must allow me to express myself. You must accept me for what I am. You cannot judge me. You cannot criticise me.
Excuse me but why? If I must accept you in all your grey non-confOrmist conformity, then you had better accept me in mine and, in the words of the great Denis Leary;
I’m asshole and proud of it!
When it comes to being forced, pushed and obligated to accept someone because they feel that I should. No Sir/Ma’am/Other I am not obliged in any way.shape or form to do what you want me to. If your entitled right to do such things is to be accepted by me, my right to disagree with you in an asshole-like fashion is equally acceptable, correct?
Ok then, I am glad we agree, thank you.
Another field of entitlement has clearly affected us all and is right out there. I bet you most of us have used it. I know I have, our little dirty secret called “Self Publishing”…ooooh I said a dirty word! It used to be called, a long time ago, “Vanity publishing” but they realised that didn’t sell too well as people really do not like having the negative sides of themselves revealed do they? Unless they’re of that group of folks who talk about those kinds of feelings a lot, that is! It is what it is though, we are appealing to our own vanity are we not, somewhat? Think about it and drop me some ideas in the comments, ok? I’ll skip over that and press on.
We are certain, we are definite that we have produced a masterpiece and it should be made known to the world entire lest they wither and die in it’s absence. As many of you know, pre self publishing, getting your Magnum Opus into print was a Herculean effort very few achieved. We could spend our entire lives trying; canvassing agents, entering contests, submitting to circulars and journals or magazines. We could spent 5, 10, 15, 20 years or more getting rejection slip after rejection slip and that was if we were lucky! Most of the time we got nada, nothing, zipperoo! I’ve been there, many of us have. it was rough but, you know what? We kept at it and here we are today.
Now do you know what the opposite of entitled is? I believe it is this; knowing what you are, what your limitations are and just accepting them, being at home in your own skin. You need no validation from anyone and so do what you like because it’s pleasant. You expect nothing from anyone and so, when you fail to receive it, you’re not disappointed, you’re actually sort of relieved because that’s less hard work isn’t it?
In my opinion these entitled writers are never going to be successful, not in the long term. No more than these recycled pop groups, TV, books and movies will, they will rise, they will vanish, they will be forgotten. Why? There is so much information overload out there that lastest best thing will soon be replaced by next best thing before the former can even blink.
How can we be successful then? We have to learn how to grow, to not be entitled, to not be arrogant and think that we can do no wrong. We must be prepared to be a failure, to be discovered and exposed as failures and then have the wherewithal to stand up, dust off our pants and ask the most important question in the universe;
Religion is as necessary to reason as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason, in attempting to account for the phenomena of Nature, had he not a supreme being to refer to; and well has it been said, thatt if there had been no god, mankind would have been obliged to invent one.” George Washington.
Since the dawn of recorded Time, or at least the parts that we know about, Man has encountered things they did not understand. Gifted with curiousity but not, unlike Mr. Stark, either blessed or curséd with knowledge.
A Natural Urge toward Following
As children expect their parents to have the answers for everything, so too do the led expect their leaders to have access to something similar. Afterall, why have a leader who is, when you get down to it, exactly like the rest of us?
See, it is human nature to follow around the biggest one or, at least, the person that has the most big ones in his employ, rather than decide things for themselves. Humans like to delegate responsibility for the big stuff and then complain about how they are doing it. It was eventually called politics.
People from across the river stealing our sheep? Leader needs to do something about that.
Now, with the simple things such as executions and imprisonment, taxes, border security, etc. the Leader has it relatively easy. He collects taxes, he pays soldiers, job pretty much done. The more metaphysical stuff like weather and geographical phenomena though…no amount of soldiers can help there…
So, one day, the Leader of UgUgBurk sits down with a wizened old man who everyone has always considered so crazy he came through the other side and is actually considered stark, raving sane; there’s a certain wisdom can be obtained from someone like that. They don’t think in straight lines like other people; they get creative.
The leader needs creative because his tribe has been going through a lot and, of course, he’s to blame. He would like his future to continue containing him for as long as possible. The old man sucks his gums and wrinkles his face in concentration. He hums and mutters, rocks and moans. He holds up a finger.
“Ever’thin’ had to come from somewhere, right?” He finally states rather than asks, nodding to himself wisely; his face so wrinkled that, from this angle, it is impossible to know whether his eyes are open or not. “Man comes from mother, foal from mare, kid from nanny, always been that way.”
The leader pulls at his straggly beard in thought and, taking a slug of his fermented goat’s milk. He nods slowly.
“So ever’thin had to come from somethin’, right?” the old man continued, eying the drink jealously, he hadn’t even been offered any, shortages they said. “Yer don’ jus’ get eggs pop outta nowhere with chickens in ’em, right?”
This was indeed correct and realisation was starting to dawn on the leader’s face.
“So, there’s this big fella in the sky who makes ever’thin and makes sure it keeps happening. Made the first people coz we don’ fall in raindrops or nuffin, right?”
The hand grasping the horn beaker of fermented milk was shaking, knuckles whitening.
“So, like we’s responsible fer our own kiddos, and ye’s responsible fer all a’ them lot,” he jerked a ragged-nailed hand to the flap of the tent. “Him or her in’t sky be responsible fer us, right?”
“So it is his fault.” the leader finally spoke, his word coming out like two bolders grinding together.
The old man beamed, something the leader never wanted to see him do again. He drained his drink and slammed the cup down on the little table beside his chair. “You are the high priest, get started.”
And so it began…
The Supreme Being
Now, this is not to say that there is not some supreme being or beings out there. There is about as much evidence for the existence of God, or a god/goddess, as there is for their non-existence; something people call an impasse. I am agnostic in my opinions, more of a spiritual type, much to the suprise of many.
I think people can believe in whoever they like as long as it does no harm to others. Now, of course, those associated with certain religions have, indeed, been using their religion as an excuse to commit or cover for acts decent people consider reprehensible. They rely on the fact that most people like to be led and told what to do rather than think for themselves, and lead the most impressionable of these to their cults which, if one were to be honest, bear no more resemblence to the original message of their supposed prophet than a strawberry does to a banana.
Common sense and logic tells you this; the movement started by a humble Israelite who espoused selling one’s possessions to aid the poor, being nice to everyone, and free healthcare would not approve of gigantic churches, presided over by obnoxious bombasts who collect millions of dollars from their followers. He had simpler tastes and would probably do something drastic to such a church were he to personally enter one.
A reasoning being, one would think, would be able to work this out with no trouble but, here’s the clincher, it seems that reasoning beings are in rather short supply on this planet. People will believe anything a grinning rich person tells them to believe.
You see, human beings are essentially programmed to believe in something superior to themselves that is without mortal fault and of unimpeachable reputation. Be this being the King, the Queen, The Emperor/Empress, President, Grand Dictator/Benevolent People’s Happy Man, god, goddess, or combination of the previous. Be it the rich TV or movie star, the music sensation, the businessperson with more money than people can invent a real number for, it does not matter. What matters is that they’re better than you.
Here’s a test; British people, can you imagine Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, sitting on watching TV with ol’ Phil, leaning to one side of her armchair and unleashing a titanic fart? If you can, well done, for you have passed the test.
The point is, in these supposedly enlightened days, it is still the predominant belief in human societies across the world that there is a ‘Ruling Class’ of people that have the automatic Right to Rule and are, by dint of this, better and superior to everyone else.
Since the first big bloke with a the biggest stick belted the next biggest one into unconsiousness and looked over at the rest of the group to see if any of them wanted to be the next to develop a headache, this behaviour has been built into us. Since the first social ladder was built, there have always been people prepared to stab others in the feet to get a little higher up it.
When it will occur to people that nobody who cheats, lies, steals, brown-noses, or smarms their way to the top, they are not going to be a nice person. They are going to be a selfish and egocentrical individual, that is the only way they can achieve such heights as it were, in the certain knowledge that they deserve it and others do not.#
The New Gods
As Neil Gaiman so accurated represented in his book and TV series, American Gods, the human desire to create gods to believe in is unending. In today’s modern world, many have moved from worshipping what we might call the ‘Traditional’ or ancestral gods to adoring the new gods; the famous, the wealthy, the internet, the things they wish to possess and those that represent them, the glitzy versions of the old gods.
Even apparent atheists or wavering agnostics firmly and passionately believe in something even if that something is that this person in that television series is the sexiest being alive, that this TV show is the best in the existence of television, that this performing artist outperforms all others, that this vehicle is superior to all others, that this sports team embodies the sport like no other, or that this politician is the perfect person to fulfil this political role. They believe, they have faith, they reject dissenting opinion, they have a creed of sorts, they have multiple scripture relating to the subject of their adoration; that equals religion does it not? It fulfils all the criteria.
Create or Created
Of course there are many theories about belief. The previous section touched on an important one which I think Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have explained much better than I ever will.
The competing ideas are these;
Faith in something, belief in it causes it to come into being if there is enough and disappear if there is not.
The existence of something creates belief once it is revealed and any belief in it helps to sustain it.
To simplify that, our belief in concepts either creates personifications of it that we direct our worship towards or our worship of concepts sustains the real force behind everything.
That is why I am careful to avoid assigning a specific name to The Creator in The Chronicles of Enoch. I use this as an example because it is, as it turns out, a good one.
In the Chronicles we have;
Angels and demons as well as nephilim who know The Creator exists and have often met Him (the male pronoun is only used because ‘It’ is considered disrespectful and because of the force of habit. Also the reality is rather too complicated to translate well into English).
Various Christians, lapsed or otherwise, who worship various versions of God and Jesus.
Various Jewish denominations who worship and call Him ‘Hashem’.
Nature-worshippers who adore and serve The Mother or various representations of Her.
Cultists that worship Lucifer but acknowledge the existence of the Judeochristian God.
Muslims who worship Allah.
Hindus who worship their gods.
Buddhists and Taoists who worship a formless force.
Athiests who worship (though they don’t often realise that is what they are doing), many of the newer forces.
If a Creator Exists
This is, I feel, important to explore, for the sake of completeness and enquiry. Let us extend, at least, the theoretical possibility that a Creator does exist and is a living, eternal being; what would that being be like?
Let us be clear, were this being to exist, it would be responsible for the Big Bang and everything in existence. It did not just create life on Earth but everywhere else too (unless it has help now that it did the main part of creation and made the universe. Maybe each galaxy or solar system has its own Creator but for now let us assume there is only one for our Universe.
Such a being would, let us be honest, so far beyond our ability to comprehend as we are to the bacteria that living within and upon us do. We are their entire world, their life and their death. They have no idea that we are a living creature so vast from their perspective. Maybe they have theories or even a religion or two; intelligent ideas based on observation. Our opinions on intelligence are very much skewed by ours being the superior and only kind, afterall.
If this being exists, then our universe did not when it decided to create it. There was, so various beliefs claim, a formless void. We could never, being from a material universe and made of that universe, the idea of absolutely nothing in our terms, is impossible to imagine. Even a vacuum can have light in it or something. This would be the absence of Light, possibly of Time, and of any material or physical laws we are familiar with. That is where this being came from.
He, if such a limited idea of gender could be applied, is so alien that even aliens – all of them throughout the universe – would consider Him alien. It would be a being that created our natural laws but would not be, by definintion, subject to them (just like those that create religions appear exempt to the laws they give their followers).
If such a being is aware of us as individuals, it is unlikely that it would be concerned about our behaviour in anything approaching minute detail, I would think but, again, how could I know? We’re talking about an intelligence, here, that is beyond my ability to even start to define, from a ‘universe’ or multiverse I could not even begin to adequately make up in my writing.
Perhaps we have the over all Supreme Being and lesser, locally Transcendant beings that take care of the smaller details and paperwork?
In the Chronicles of Enoch, we have the existence of The Creator together with the main Judeochristian pantheon. We also have the gods of various faiths appear (though most of them were nephilim) as well as beings we cannot explain the existence of; beings which appear to predate the angels or were, at least, there on Earth before the angels arrived to Watch.
Religion does not answer all of humanity’s questions because religion was hijacked by Lucifer in his first major operation in undermining the human race, he went a long way to ensure that message was as fragmented and confusing as possible; to give humans a least a nugget of doubt, deep down in their souls, that they truly were all alone in the universe and that their faith would be, ultimately, all for nothing. That is where our friend, The Stranger comes in.
We, instead, float a spiritual idea or several and let people decide for themselves what they want to take from it all. The angels are real, there is a Creator, there is a devil, there are demons of all descriptions. Those stories are all real. We have the Apocalypse and the Horsemen thereof, so that story is also real but not completely, our version is missing quite a lot of important information. For example, this is not the first Apocalypse, something went wrong with the last one.
The Creator plays no active part in the series at all. He is present, He is mentioned (in a variety of guises), and is said to be behind it all but He never takes the stage as it were. I made no effort to explain something I could not possibly describe aside from other’s impressions of Him and their experiences.
I made a very deliberate point to keep most of the characters originating from the Biblical accounts to be familiar in many ways but have a few jarring or unusual details in order to communicate that the story had been corrupted.
Whether there is a Creator or not, or even a multitude of them, I cannot say, though it is my personal opinion that it is likely. I am just of the opinion that nobody really knows very much about them because, perhaps, thngs have been carefully arranged that way.
Perhaps if we took all the good belief in such a being brings out in people and forgot all of the very confused dogma humans with an agenda – humans who were after exercising power over others and taking the blame away from themselves – added on later, the world would be a better place.
Maybe, in it’s own small way, that is what The Chronicles hope to achieve.
“…what humans ultimately fear is nothing” “That makes no sense…” he began to protest. A sharp gesture with a black-gloved hand cut him off. “Not of nothing…not like you.” The hat inclined downward in something approximating a nod of respect. “They fear it all coming to an end and that, as it we’re, being that.” It paused to light a black cigarette, the void where its face should be simply drinking the light. “They fear becoming nothing…”
I have asked myself this many times, what is it which makes a human most human, what makes a human most essentially human, what defines people?
Fear. Small word, many meanings, many interpretations, many manifestations… Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of what other people might think of you or not think of you, fear of belonging or not belonging, fear of difference, fear of control or lack thereof. Ultimately fear of the one thing human beings have a knowledge of which all other creatures on the Earth appear to lack understanding of; death.
You see, it is a consideration, quite a large one, in a series that involves immortals of many kinds; they fear death or are they immune to such things? If they do not fear death what do they fear instead?
The Fear of the Known
So what does it boil down to? Where am I going with this? Well, all the other fears which rule human lives, I think, are rooted in fear of death. How so? Well we all fear death and are uncertain of what comes thereafter thus we worry and obsess about how we shall be remembered when we are gone, what our legacy shall be, what we leave behind.
Politicians worry about how History will remember them; average people about how their family and descendants will remember and honour them. So they spend what little time they have (never knowing how long their allotted span shall be) in worry and fear of being accepted, acknowledged and thought of. It does afterall have a large affect on life does it not, spending the majority of it (the adult portion) feeling the weight of the one certainty in life (that we have it for rent only and that the time shall come to return our loan) but never knowing when it shall end….
I know when it shall end and have to take my lesson to heart and realize how many of my fears are misplaced.
So why be afraid of change, or others’ opinions, of what I’ll have time to do?
I know I will be here for a period of time, I will live and have life for that period of time. I had dreams before of time beyond the time I had left to me, of old age, old things I might see or experience and those dreams are not to be but they may never have been anyway; I, under other circumstances, would not have known and….well you know the story.
To fear known consequences, those of a failure to act as you know you should perhaps?
So to live without fear, without unnecessary fear (logical fears have value, fear of an angry animal, a rapidly approaching vehicle, of hurting someone’s feelings) … to sensibly fear the Known, how that’s sensible. Fearing the know is wise and a good survival trait.
Fearing the Unknown, though…
How can that make any sense? If course, to be human means doing much that makes no sense. Our imagination has helped us achieve much and is a writers bread and butter, after all.
We spend much of our life embroiled in unknown fears, though. We devote a great deal of time to “what if” scenarios, to possibilities, and to things we are close to certain will never happen.
But they might…
What if they happen and we’re not ready because we thought it was stupid?
How would I live with myself if x happened because I didn’t pay attention to y?
They want you to think that this isn’t real because….
It seems like the human brain is very much wired to be prepared for quick flight at all times, anticipating potential dangers and always ready for them, even if they never happen. Seems a little wasteful to me…
I mean, let’s look at this logically; anything could happen, the universe is a rather random and chaotic place. In theory, the Earth could be wiped out in an eyeblink by a rogue asteroid or exploding star. Aliens could invade and either enslave or liberate us all. Nepharious secret societies could realise their plans and start the Big War again and bring down civilisation as we know it.
You could cross the road tomorrow and get killed by a car. This crazed man with a gun could decide you look like a nice target. You could catch the latest deadly virus that the media are making us frightened of. You could touch the wrong thing at what could be determined as the right or wrong time, depending on your point of view.
You are going to die at some point, that is one thing of which we can, as humans, be absolutely certain. At least you only have to do it once.
Bearing in mind that we, allegedly alone in the animal kingdom, know that dead is inevitable, you would think that this knowledge would give us a kind of strength. You would think that knowing this extra fact would be an advantage.
Instead we spend our entire existence coming up with stories as to where we go once the inevitable pays us a visit. We don’t like the idea that the inevitable vistor might come alone.
Fear as the Prime Motivator
Let’s take a look at people. I don’t mean individual ones, I mean the species as a whole. This is a theme which does indeed run deeply through The Chronicles and even has a character who exists primarily to drive it.
Excepting a small group of shaven-headed men and women that live in inhospitable places, have that tranquil and smug look, and like to dress in saffron; the majority of people alive spend the entirety of that blessing worrying about when that stops. Every decision we make, every interaction, every choice is driven by the knowledge that, one day, we will no longer be here.
Think about it; humanity’s prime motivation is not the improvement of our world or discovering something that will make existence a better place, it is about achieving immortality.
Serial Immortality; through children, we pass on not only our genes but our knowledge, our values, our social identity.
Historical Immortality; there are many ways to achieve this but we’ve all heard of Shakespeare, Einstein, Newton, Lincoln, Julius Caesar…
Digital Immortality; these days, people’s Facebook accounts outlive them so their memories, thoughts and, somewhat, their personality endures. It’s like eidactics but less interactive.
Our lives are driven to achieving one form of immortality or another, humanity is desperate to find the secret;
How to live longer; by exercising more, health fads, pills, and potions
How to look younger; and therefore trick Death into not realising it’s our time by using, guess what? Pills, fads, and potions!
Daring Death to Take Us; extreme sports and activities, so-called adrenaline activities. We survive that so we feel immortal.
Vampires, Zombies, etc; Literature is just filled with them now but what’s the fascination? Immortality and a stylish and sexy one at that, how could that be bad? Oh, the blood, right.
Obession with The Afterlife; we have to go somewhere when we die, right? Even people that don’t believe in any deity or religion have ideas about the afterlife, that there is one. Some don’t but, it would appear, the majority do.
Think about it, it is rather funny when you bring it down to that; we’re obsessed with vampires because one does not need to ascribe to a particular religion to be one of the Children of the Night. Zombies existing means something endures after death. Ghosts and spirits mean there is something immaterial beyond the physical. If we do something worthy of remembrance, then we’ve won, right?
To Live Without Fear?
Again, this theme runs right through Darkness Within. It is often discussed and debated. The idea that utter fearlessness is not a desirable condition seems to be what most characters conclude. Many are accused of being fearless but they will correct the speaker when this opinion is voiced.
Asmodeus will respond sarcastically, Sable will just smile.
Let’s take a look at what being truly fearless means; it means to be without fear, to fear nothing, not even the things we should fear. A fearless man would not hesitate before leaping off a cliff. A fearless man would plunge his hand into a fire to get the treasure. A fearless man would charge twenty heavily armed soldiers and not worry about how many ways he would die.
Fearless, as Asmodeus would put it, means insane. Fear is sensible, he might add, as long as you remind it who is master;
“Fear is good if it remembers who is boss; if it can control itself and focus more on being Caution than Terror. Fear must be controlled and never allowed off its chain. Keep it shackled and allow it to counsil but never rule…”
Fear keeps you alive and doing that for as long as possible is, as previously established, quite important to the average human. Insane, mouth-frothing fearlessness gets you killed everywhere except in the stories. Fear is useful as long as you do not let it dominate.
Letting Fear off the Leash
What happens when we let fear take control? Well, let’s talk about fear first, shall we?
Fear is a primal force, older than the human race, he lies that deep and left-over reptilian node, long overlaid by ‘more civilised’ layers of mentatation. It lies where those ancient instincts about running away from anything with teeth longer than our arm slumber in the primordial darkness.
It doesn’t always take much to have humanity stampede like the herd of wildebeast that have seen the lion, though.
The Middle East.
Fear came into our make-up before emotions, logic and even language were invented. Fear doesn’t consult, it doesn’t go through any checks, it has its own express lane to the adrenal gland. It is capable of shutting off the brain almost entirely, cutting it out of the loop.
Terror is the deadliest weapon in existence because, in terror, people will destroy themselves, in panic they will run blindly into a far worse situation than the one they fled. People are crushed in the resulting stampedes. Panic is contageous and very hard to control; people will join in without actually knowing what it is the people running towards them are fleeing.
It is visceral, it is illogical, it is deadly.
It is also rather easy to manipulate in much less dramatic a fashion. Fear is also a very useful resource for a smart man or woman to exploit.
“Humans fear that which they do not understand and hate that which they fear”
Politicians seem to be the masters of this art in our current climate. Fear switches off emotions so if you can make your supporters fear those that oppose you, then they will lap up any old trash you give them. Neither ‘side’ of the political spectrum in America, Britian, or elsewhere are innocent of this.
The media have long made use of it to sell papers. Sensationalism, was their term for lying, exaggeration and fear-mongering. It sounds much better than propaganda doesn’t it?
It didn’t take long for powerful people to realise that this could not only be useful but used for something much more important than the distribution of gossip, scandal, and cheap pornography.
Though Asmodeus is often credited with coming up with the idea, he isn’t the only truly devious creature in existence; he’s one of the best at it but not the only one.
It has been well proven that, if you make a human nervous enough, their decision-making ability is impaired. Higher brain functions are overruled by emotional ones, impetuous thinking dominates, strong emotions such as anger are the strongest in this case.
If people are ruled by this fear/hate relationship, they will tend to believe anything that you say about the target of their fear as well as anything those who say they oppose the hated group, in turn, assert.
The world today is pretty much devided along these lines.
Let us use America as an example; Democrats are certain the Republicans and their chosen ‘Leader’ are the most currupt, dangerous, and hateful people in existence. We will believe anything we are told about said President, no matter how ridiculous it might sound.
In contrast; Republican supporters believe that said President is the victim of a vast conspiracy involving inhuman corruption and Anti-American secret societies who want to undermine everything they stand for. They, too, will believe any outlandish story they hear.
Social media, as we have mentioned in other articles, has made this incredibly easy to achieve and manage. It is easier to feed stories, rumours, and titbits to people. It is easier to employ people to comment and sprinkle stories in a seemingly innocent manner.
To be subject to fear is, therefore these days, to be subject to manipulation. Now that is a scary thought.
To live without fear utterly is pure insanity. To fear the unknown is, perhaps, a lesser though common insanity. To fear the known is, we are led to believe, sensible.
People are described as fearless but think about that for a moment. To be completely fearless is to be utterly insane. Fearless is a person who charges the enemy guns alone holding only a knife and a couple of grenades, laughing while they do it.
They might survive by the pure luck if any watching gods wanting to see what happens next but, sooner or later, they get bored and luck runs out.
Judicious fear is finding the long-forgotten drainage culvert and crawling up it at night to plant the grenades in weak spots and get out alive.
Fearing the Unknown will paralyse you and hold you back. Fearing the Known and respecting it, that’s the ticket, we are told. Respect and give fear a voice but make absolutely sure that it knows its place.
The secret is being afraid but doing it anyway; that’s real bravery; looking fear in the eye and smiling.
“Your Greek gods were, let’s be honest, big children. They were free to do what they liked and punish any mortals and immortals that got in their way. Just look at how many demi-gods there were running around killing monsters! Let’s be fair, though, they’d lost their home and were a little confused…
One thing I admire in them is their absolute artistry in creative punishment; Atlas, for leading a rebellion against tyranny was to hold up the heavens. Our good friend, called Prometheus at the time for some reason, was chained in the Carpathians to a mountain and had am eagle eat his liver – which kept growning back every night – every day until he killed it and escaped. All for teaching the post-flood humans how to stay warm and cook their food! Then there’s Sisyphus…let’s not get started on Sisyphus!”
Ok, Sisyphus deserved it if any of them did but, still, overly creative and insane punishment. The fleeing nephilim that made it to the proto-Greek states and styled themselves as gods, casting out the others that were already there, were obviously quite traumatised by their experiences on Atlantis. They needed to make others suffer, that certainly explains their excesses and definately those of the ‘gods’ others became when they landed in distant Mesoamerica…
Struggling Forever Uphill
As an artist looking for that ‘big break’ – or even a small break, if we’re honest – this is how the task feels. For our hubris, the ‘gods’ harry and challenge us.
I’ve had my share and I’m sure everyone reading this has. We start this process by learning that we can publish our dreams and, perhaps, have a large number of people read it. We can do this for free and without the complicated process of years gone by. We not only have this but we have a community of others like us (quite a few writers are rather introverted) with whom we can both share our experiences and learn. It’s all rather heady and exciting at the beginning isn’t it?
You get on, filled with vim and vervour (and other new words you’ve learned recently) to write your manuscript. Sometimes it just flows and overflows, sometimes it does not, it drips erratically or the pipes get clogged up by some…ah stuff…you can can’t quite get at, like that itch right between the shoulderblades most people can’t reach. You start to realise that this might be the reason that dreams always take place while we’re asleep; because it’s far easier that way. Reality, it would appear, hates an optimist.
Let’s have a look at some of the reality;
You not only have support, you have competition. You are convinced of your ability, the briliance of your story and tjhe impact it can and will have. You may have poured your heart and your soul into it already or you are about to. One of two things is probably about to happen amd you are likely to dislike both of them. You will receive your first taste of scathing criticism or your first meal of patronising ‘good advice’.
There is a rather big world out there. Last count, I saw upwards of 500 writing and writing-related groups on Facebook. Let that sink in. I have seen thousands of new titles on Amazon and Smashwords per month alone. Pitmad Day on Twitter is the day I turn some of my notifications off and leave it to my management tools to aggregate them for me. The moment you realise you’re one pebble in a vast avalanche is quite a sobering one. Walking into one of the big bookstores and seeing the quantity of published books is nothing compared to that.
You do not just have your book to write. You have an awful lot more than that to do. You have social media profiles to create and maintain, you have connections to make. You either have to yourself or hire someone to design covers and webpage. You might need an editor. You need to build a readership and decide on a strategy you can maintain in order to do that. All this while working a job, managing your family and life, and trying to get your masterpiece written. That bolder is getting heavier, isn’t it?
You’re still learning. There are Rules, there is advice, there are guides to read but most of them disagree with one another. The Rules are viciously argued about on social media groups. How to Do Self-Publishing (irony) guides are everywhere. Here’s the shocker; this is quite a new market which Amazon blew wide open, it’s new to everyone. Not only to us little potential lemmings swarming towards the samw narrow doorway together but to those who think that they might like the taste of lemming.
That will do for now, now let me share what I experienced and the conclusions I drew from those answers. There; I qualified that I am not providing you with THE answers but what I consider to be good answers.
One piece of advice I will tell you that it is vital to listen to if you are just starting out (not a hard-bitten veteran like me with skin that’s like a melon’s) – It’s all just opinion. Nobody you find on a Facebook Group, Twitter stream, Mastodon server or anywhere can actually give you The Answers. The fact that they are in the same place as you means they are, if anything, marginally more successful than you. The people who are in the place you want to be, that of famous author, will tell you that there is no real answer, though they can give you advice if you’d like it (that or, sorry but I’m too busy).
Grow that glossy, melon-like skin like mine. Let’s be honest here, writers are rather ego-driven individuals. We can be opiniated know-it-alls at times, I accept these failings in myself but others don’t acknowledge them in themselves the same. Some may be quite forceful in expressing their version of things and quite dismissive of others, it happens. I personally, in a Facebook group I will not name, had some users comment only on character portraits etc I posted ONLY to draw attention to flaws or errors. Never did they engage in discussion or provide praise, just criticism. Now I don’t need the praise but it’s still nice isn’t it?
See this as the 2nd job that it is. The Chronicles of Enoch, if searched for in Google and Bing, will bring up predominantly my stuff in the main and image search results. It’ll bring up my paid ad too but we’ll look at that later. That takes daily work to maintain. I worked out and maintain my website (you need you own domain, there’s no way around it), I post to my blog daily, I’m always on social media either networking for plugging and I even work on establishing a Quora presence to add some weight. All of which leads on to…
There is no other way. These days, it seems, publishers see the trends and they see a way to save some cash. If the artist does all the advertising before they take over, they’ll just take over and help speed things up. I recommend the use of Social Media Management software such as Crowdfire and Zoho, which I use (more about them later), to help manage the load. You can then schedule and repeat posts, organise all your responses in one place and make it slightly less terrifying. This is all good training because, if you do get famous, there’ll be a lot more to do and less excuses not to do it.
Lemmings don’t have to jump. Ask yourself this single question; just how famous and successful are the people that are giving you all of this advice? How many books have they got on the NYT Bestseller list (really got them, not just saying it on their cover), how many of their books would you find at Border, Waterstones, or B&N? Exactly so they’re just like you. Even the Big’s who publish books on writing tell you that all they are providing is a guide, not Iron-Bound Commandments.
The Right Balance
If Sisyphus ever started to get used to his punishment, he’d realise that, no matter what he did, the bolder was going to get infinitely heavier once it got to the top regardless. So why hurry? He was going to get run over my a big heavy bolder and likely killed, he couldn’t avoid it. He had to push the big bugger up to the top of the slope no matter what. Eventually, I’d like to think, he learned to pace and balance himself, make Zeus wait for his daily giggle.
I won’t deny it, there are going to be days when you think the daily grind has achieved a grand total of nothing and feels like a waste of time. There are days when you’ll reach the most incredible of highs only for the bolder to suddenly get heavy and squash you flat on the way down. What matters most is whether you get back up again or not.
Let me share a few of my ‘heavy bolder’ moments;
Six months after publication of my triumphal series that would change our perception of history as a species and be turned into a TV steries with Kevin McKidd as Alexander, Sir Ben Kingsley as Sham (or Irrfan Khan perhaps would be better) was released, I realised that each book was filled with grammatical and spelling mistakes I had not corrected and that the covers were rubbish. I pulled down NINE books from Amazon but there are still copies floating around out there that are associated with my name. In this age of the internet, nothing goes away. I redesigned some much better covers for them or or improved the existing ones. I’ve edited just over half of them and will get to the others. Point is, that could have sunk me but it didn’t; it was simply Lesson One of a great many.
I tried to do too much. I had a job with an awful schedule which didn’t let me access the internet or use my phone much, twin baby girls, wife and other kids….and I tried to run all of this lot, edit, manage a website, upload a YouTube video every Sunday at least, do this, that and several dozen others while worrying about money and how to earn more of it. It should come as no surprise that I wrote those error-filled books between calls in a call-center I worked at, brought my open paper and printed them (no email access etc from work computers), scanned them at home, corrected the OCR errors, formatted etc. them in the scant minutes I was at home and not looking after my kids or helping out. I was interrupted a lot, my train of thought derailed. I would go back to things after a long delay and miss a mistake. Pace yourself, the only deadlines you have at the moment are those you impose on yourself. Lesson Two.
I got permanently and irrevokably banned from Facebook. I had been posting a series of blog articles which I knew were contraversial and likely to annoy some people but hey, no such thing as bad publicity is there? Apparently, Facebook disagrees. Apparently my series of articles touched a nerve or several; so much so that Facebook decided to lock me permanently out the very moment I was trying to share the the third. My finger had just clicked ‘share’ I kid you not. Click…sharing….oh, look, we found a security problem with your account and need you to verify the code we sent to a phone number you told us you haven’t used for years…Lesson Three? Diversify your message and know your audience. Facebook obviously thought I was talking about them (I was but I didn’t outright say it) and took exception.
The largest lesson of them all is this, though, DON’T THROW IN THE TOWEL. Things are going to get tough. You need to learn to diversify, to keep pushing and adapting, you have to treat this entire process like the longest job interview of your life.
You will get criticism of both the contructive and destructive kinds; the former to help you and the latter, perhaps, out of jealousy or pure vitriol; learn to distinguish the two and accept the former and bvursh off the latter. You get bullies everywhere and, ultimately, what makes them a bully also causes them to fail. But aware of not dismissing anyone that criticises you simply as a bully as those of weak political resolve do on certain fora.
You need to interact and contribute. Like, comment on, share and praise the work of writers whose work you like. It’s like karma, it you do not interact with others, why would others interact with you? You’re doing what some people call making friends and, if this is challenge for you, if putting yourself out there is hard for you or causes anxiety, I hate to say that this might not be the path for you. You have to learn to at least make it seem like you’re confident about your work when you’re presenting it. Only your passion, your drive, your conviction will make this work stand up and be noticed as something worth spending money on and/or dedicating several hours of their life to.
The Kid Gloves Come Off
Imagine, if you, like, the Sgt. Major pacing around you as you stand at ease. He talks to you as he paces, keeping his voice level but intense. He thinks you have potential, he knows you can do better but yelling and threats do not seem to be having the desired effect because his job is to bring out the best in you for the situation. Your job is to recognise that and provide.
We cannot pussy-foot around this part, it would be a waste of my time writing it and of yours in reading it. You are the one that is responsible for all of your failures in one way or another. You can blame circumstances, other people, and so forth but you were there. Perhaps the version of you that was there didn’t have the tools to behave any differently but the fact that you survived means you have learned and are no longer that person. it might even be safe to assume that you will not make the same mistakes again. Of course you are human so nothing is guaranteed!
Your work; your art, your writing, your books, your movies, your merchandise, your future dreams; nobody will be responsible for the failure of those but you.
Let’s leave that floating there and think about it for a minute…
Who decides that enough is enough?
Who decides you’re taking a day off?
Who decides to do this and not do that?
Right. The cat does. Even if you don’t have a cat, they still decide everything and I don’t have a cat but I was talking about his feet.
Joking aside; no cats, hoss, just you.
So, the question hangs diaphorously in the air….
How badly do you want this?
This is your dream is that not right? Since as long as you can remember, it’s been there, a part of you. It is probably one your Top Three list of Most Important Things of all time. Your children and some members of your family might be more import, your pets also, perhaps.
it is important to consider this hierarchy of priorities when considering what we have written and read so far and the two questions that will come next;
If your child was struggling at school would your response be; “ah well sod them, I’m busy/tired/get anxious about confrontation…flipping burgers can present great career opportunities and they get a uniform..”?
If your little pet sweetheart animaly-creature was sick and needed some medical attention although finances were tight would your response be; “bugger that ungrateful drain on money, we can get another one and I bet the kids won’t notice…”?
If you would answer positively to either of those questions, I would like to you quietly let yourself out of this blog and never return, the door’s over there.
Does your life’s dream deserve any less attention? No, it does not because it will fail if you do not put absolutely every iota of your being that you you can spare into it? Would you refuse a reasonable request from your small child for any reason short of being already dead? I didn’t think so. Would you leave your little doggie to get all unhealthy and restless because taking him for a walk is too much effort this week? Again no, right?
Book. It’s future. You decide. Now.
If things go wrong or not as you thought they might, evaluate, consider, adapt and keep going. If you give up, nobody else is going to do it. Do not use the ‘yes but this thing happened’ excuse either because I guarantee that somewhere in the world somebody faced that thing and did not let it stop them.